Thursday, March 18, 2010

Skyr-Icelandic Curds

I will praise in song, edda, poetry and saga the beauty of skyr. While visiting Iceland four years ago, I discovered I was pregnant with my son. Skyr became one of my cravings and a way to reduce the massive heart burn that occupied the pregnancy. I was instantly hooked. Historically, skyr has been in Iceland since the Vikings arrived and settled. Like the language, the knowledge of skyr-making as been lost in the Scandinavian countries but remained a fixture in Iceland.
In Iceland skyr, which looks like yogurt, is actually fresh cheese. It is made with fresh skimmed milk which makes the fat content low. This low fat content allows the skyr to be eaten with cream/milk and sugar. This is one of my favorite versions. In Iceland it is also served with fresh or frozen fruits like crowberries, mango, strawberries, honeydew and blackberries. The traditional fruit served with it is blueberries. (Yum!)
When I returned home from Iceland I was disappointed to find no skyr in America! I searched every where and found some sources on line. My very patient husband had to remind me, in my very pregnant, skyr-craving-crazed mindset, that $200 a case of skyr was probably not a good idea and that I couldn’t possibly eat that much skyr.

I was delighted to find one day “Jo’s Icelandic Recipes” (current blog) (original site with skyr recipe)

AND to my delight a skyr recipe.

While in Iceland taking a tour of one of the beautiful farmsteads I did find an Icelandic copy of a recipe for skyr. At the time my Icelandic was not up to par so Jo’s was the next best things. As I danced around in delight, again with mega pregnancy brain in full swing, I had to be gently reminded by my patient husband that to make skyr required skyr or þéttir.

Jump a head four years. My longing for skyr never ended. I have tried many different versions of American skry made “in the traditional” methods. But, something was always missing. The texture would be off, the flavor would be off or it would be way too sweet. Most of these good people were using live culture sour cream or buttermilk as a substitute for the skyr or þéttir. To my delight I found the other day at the local health food store Siggi’s Icelandic style skyr! WOW! Real skyr! Check out there website: and

My craving is now satisfied. I can now introduce to my now 4 year old son skry. He is learning to share with his 2 ½ year old sister.

Good Morning!

I am learning Icelandic for the last three months. (Eg hef laert Islensku i 3 manud)

As a Viking historian: how would a Viking say, “Good Morning” to the camp or village?

The Vikings were from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and parts of Finland. They had colonies in Iceland, Greenland, Ireland and England. The Vikings had extensive trade with the Arab countries, Turkey and Russia.

1. God morgen -- Norwegian

2. God morgon -- Sweden

3. GODDAG-- Denmark

4. Hyvää huomenta-- Finland

5. Iterlarit-- Greenland

6. Gódan daginn-- Iceland

7. Dia dui tar maidin-- Irish Gaelic

8. Dobraye ootra-- Russia

9. Günaydin-- Turkey

10. Subbaakhair-- Farsi

11. Sabah-il-kheir-- Arabic

12. Pane Sopulia-- Drafn

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Viking A-Frames Part II

Viking A-Frames diagrams........

The examples of Norse tents come from the Oseberg and Gokstad ship burials. There are only a few minor differences between the two sets of burials. The Gokstad ship is some time pictured with a tent stretched over the center. This however is a modern addition based on a saga description.

Only the gable boards survived on the Gokstad ship. They are made of oak. These are between the two sets from the Oseberg ship in size. The gable boards on all the tents had carvings of animal heads. The Gokstad heads had accents in yellow and black and the Oseberg boards had religious symbols painted, possibly in red.

For further details and information on Norse Tents.. check out
and The Viking Answer Lady

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The History of Viking Tents-Part I

by: AElina Vesterlundr- Drafn Arts and Science Officer

When you walk around Estrella War, Spring War, or even at Pennsic War, the Viking encampments stand out among the rest of the period encampments because of the unique A-frame tents. What we all know as Viking “A-frames” are modeled from the Gokstad and Oseberg finds that can be viewed at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway. Currently, these two finds are the only physical examples of Viking A-frame tents. At the Reykjavik, Iceland’s Saga Museum similar A-frame tents were used in combination with turf and stone. There is no physical evidence of these tents but the Icelandic Sagas talk about setting up tents at the All-Thing for the merchants, farmers, priests and lawyers during their yearly Thing.
In Old Norse, there are two different words for “tents” or tjalds: there is the landtjald which was set up on the ground and the stafntjald which was set up on the deck of a ship. The Gokstad and Oseberg tents are the landtjald. The only other evidence of Viking using tents are in the Sagas. The Sagas have other words for parts of tents:
• tjaldviðir, tent frame (viðir, wood);
• tjaldáss, tjaldstöng, tjaldstuðill, tent-pole (áss, pole, often horizontal (particularly the main pole); stöng pole, often upright; and stuðill, stud, prop, etc, usually upright);
• tjaldsperra, tent spar (sperra, spar, rafter);
• tjalddyrr, tent doors;
• tjaldskör, langskör, edge border of tent;
• tjaldsnagli, tent-peg;
• tjaldkúla, the knob on tent-pegs;
• tjaldstokkr, tent-block(?) (possibly the two lower side poles of the tent);
• tjald með gráu vaðm‡li, a tent with grey fabric;
• steintjald, a coloured tent; and
• líntjald, a linen tent.
What did the Oseberg and the Gokstad tents look like? It was originally assumed that the Vikings took down their sails every night and draped them over wooden frames, possibly their oars. There was an advantage to this idea since it required fewer materials to be carried on board ship. But, after it was discovered that replacing the sail every morning was extremely difficult, other theories were developed. The average woolen sail plus rigging weighed in over half a ton and with nothing more then a simple pulley system this wasn’t practical. The archaeological team at Oseberg found a “bundle of woolen cloth of yellowish color, thought to be originally white with stripes of white sewn on.” This bundle is assumed to be tent because within the bundle there were pieces of thin hemp rope to fasten to the tilt. Surprisingly, the tent was made of wool, but also was decorated with appliquéd stripes. Boards were also discovered near the bundle the tent cover was stretched over. In both the Oseberg and Gokstad finds, the wooden frame-work was made of ash wood. The Gokstad frame works are described as “two pair of angled upright boards (verge boards) and were connected by a ridge pole which inserted like a mortise and tenon joint in to the holes near the tops of the verge boards.” Stabilizing the ridge pole with its two pairs of verge boards were still boards or poles along the ground with also tenoned through the lower end of the verge boards. It was over this wedge shaped frame that the tent was stretched over so that the decorated heads of the verge boards were visible. These decorated heads on the verge boards are distinctive features on Viking tents. These verge boards are elaborately carved and decorated heads. The heads on the Gokstad tent is painted with black, red and yellow. The most common carved animal motif on the verge boards were dragons. Possibly to ward of evil spirits and protect the sleepers inside?

Part II More Viking Tents

Kitchen Alchemy 101- Kjötsúpa (Lamb Soup)

Kitchen Alchemy 101

Kjötsúpa (Lamb Soup) Serves 6-8

By Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir

Lamb Soup is considered the “national soup” in Iceland. It is common to see sheep on the side of the major roads happily eating the grass. Motorists know that all livestock in Iceland have the right of way and must yield to them while driving. Sheep were brought to Iceland by the Vikings. The wool is highly prized for its thickness and high lanolin content.

  • 3 pounds (1,5 kg) lamb shoulder, on the bone, cut in large pieces
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • 6 cups (1,5 liters) water
  • 2-3 tbsp dried mixed vegetables and herbs* (from a soup mix) ( I have used herbs that would have been most likely imported from Europe to Iceland like rosemary)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound (½ kg) rutabaga, cut in an even ½-inch dice
  • ½ pound (250 grams) small potatoes, (or use parsnips for a more period taste) peeled and cut in an even ½-inch dice
  • ½ pound (250 grams) carrots, peeled and cut in an even ½-inch dice

Place the meat and onion in a large pan and pour cold water over it. Heat to boiling point, let boil rapidly for a few minutes, then skim. Add dried vegetables and some salt and pepper and simmer for around 40 minutes. Add rutabagas, potatoes and carrots and simmer for 20-25 minutes more, or until all the vegetables are tender. Season to taste. The meat is either served in the soup or removed and served on a separate plate, but it is always eaten with the soup. Some cut it up small, then add it back to the soup, others would eat it from a separate plate. (When I was in Iceland the meat was always served in the soup.)

“Other versions of the soup may add or substitute other vegetables, like cabbage, kale or turnips, and a fistful of oats or rice was sometimes added to thicken it to more of a stew.”

This is always served with fresh bread and butter. Flatbrauð also “Flat Bread” is common bread served in Iceland. Fresh farm bread is also served warm with fresh butter.